This week, to our great excitement, Texas legislators started pre-filing bills for the upcoming legislative session, which kicks off in January. Those bills will include State Senator Jane Nelson of Flower Mound's proposal to drug test potential welfare recipients and a measure from Longview's David Simpson that would make it illegal for the TSA to perform pat-down procedures in Texas airports. It's going to be an entertaining session, in other words.
But just to make sure we've also got an argument about church-state separation in the mix, Republican state Representative Dan Flynn of Van has also filed a very short proposed bill that may end up drawing national attention. House Bill 51 would modify the Texas Education Code, specifying that "the board of trustees of an independent school district may not prohibit the posting of a copy of the Ten Commandments in a prominent location in a district classroom."
Flynn has also pre-filed two other pieces of educational legislation: one bill proposes a moratorium on the STAAR test, while the other would require all high school students to complete a course on the Constitution.
In a press release, Flynn's staff says the Ten Commandments bill will offer teachers the "opportunity" to post them, "if they so choose."
"Each of these three bills are very important to the constituents in my district, and I and my staff were encouraged to make these a priority," Representative Flynn is quoted as saying.
There have been a host of Ten Commandments-related lawsuits in recent years; back in September, the atheist Freedom From Religion Foundation sued a Pennsylvania school district over a granite commandments monument displayed at a middle school.
The Ten Commandments are, of course, also prominently displayed at the Texas State Capitol. In 2005, the Supreme Court upheld the state's right to display that monument, though it also struck down the posting of the commandments in county courthouses in Kentucky.
To our knowledge, no board of trustees for any school district anywhere in Texas has ever showed any particular zeal for banning the Ten Commandments from the classroom. But we suppose Flynn is merely being cautious. And maybe he'll even get a different outcome than he did in the last legislative session , when he filed a completely identical bill, only to have it die in committee.